This is a condensed version of Candy’s 2007 Master’s of Urban Planning thesis at Columbia University called Hello, Neighbors!: Outdoor Flyers, Online Forums, and an Eye Towards Collective Neighborhood Communication. We have more and more tools to reach out across the world, but it’s still hard to reach out to your entire neighborhood. Residents are full of knowledge and experiences that could help us improve our communities and ourselves. We don’t bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wisdom never gets passed on, but we do share the same public spaces. Two forms of communication, outdoor flyers and online forums, allow individuals to reach out to a large population in public space. By documenting these messages in three New York City neighborhoods – the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Cobble Hill – Candy developed a typology for how these forums are currently used and conducted low-fi experiments online and offline.
Communication tools are just as important of an infrastructure system as roads, sewers, and electricity. Flyers are spread throughout the interstitial spaces of the city and lampposts have become unofficial billboards for local communication. Our sidewalks, squares, parks, and civic buildings are for everyone, yet take a quick look at the messages on display in our public spaces and it seems like we only care about sexy beers and fruity shampoos. In a built environment where citizens’ flyers are illegal yet businesses can shout about products on an increasing number of surfaces, we need to consider how our public spaces can be better designed so they’re not just reserved for the highest bidder but also reflect our needs as a community. With more ways to share with one another, our public spaces can not only help us make better places, they can help us become our best selves.
2007, Thesis advisor: Robert Beauregard, Thesis reader: Sarah Williams